Community Action Works
Community Action Works

Rhode Island Governor signs new law banning PFAS in food packaging

For immediate release: 7/6/2022
Contact: Leigh-Anne Cole, leigh-anne@communityactionworks.org, 617-721-2858
Deirdre Cummings,  mdcummings@masspirg.org617-747-4319

BOSTON- Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee signed a new law last night banning PFAS in food packaging, becoming the 9th state to do so. Public health, community and environmental organizations urged Massachusetts legislators to do the same by passing the pending bill to ban PFAS in food packaging in Massachusetts (S2893/H4820) filed by Senator Michael Moore and  Representative Jack Lewis this session.

PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalklyl substances) are a class of chemicals that resist water, oil, heat, and friction. They are added to food packaging to prevent food from leaking through containers. Wrapping food in PFAS-laden packaging is irresponsible and dangerous. PFAS have been linked to a wide variety of health problems including immunosuppression, low birthweight, liver disease, and testicular and kidney cancer. The new law prohibits food packaging to which PFAS have been intentionally added in any amount from being manufactured, knowingly sold, or distributed in Rhode Island, as of Jan. 1, 2024. Nine states have passed similar bills including CA, CO, MN, ME, VT, NY, CT,  and MD.

PFAS are often called “forever chemicals,” because these bioaccumulative chemicals never fully break down in the environment.  As we keep making, using and discarding things with PFAS, these chemicals keep building up, in the environment and our bodies.  PFAS in food packaging is particularly dangerous as it can leach into our food.

“The bottom line is that we shouldn’t have to worry that our lunch is exposing us to toxic chemicals,” said Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director, MASSPIRG.  “Is it really worth risking our health so our hands don’t get greasy?”

“Massachusetts needs to act quickly to ban PFAS in food packaging. If we don’t, manufacturers could dump their PFAS-containing food packaging on Massachusetts residents because they no longer can sell in other nearby states,” said Laura Spark, Senior Policy Advocate at Clean Water Action.

“The Commonwealth needs to act immediately to restrict PFAS. At the Federal level, there are currently no limits on using PFAS in any product. Passing this food packaging bill now will demonstrate that Massachusetts is serious about reducing PFAS in our bodies and the environment. This law will also put manufacturers on notice that all PFAS needs to be phased out as soon as possible,” said Clint Richmond, Toxics Policy lead, Massachusetts Sierra Club.

“Food packaging is used for minutes, but the PFAS in packaging lasts forever. The disposal of the large volume of PFAS laden packaging waste contributes to the contamination of our water and environment, said Leigh-Anne Cole, Interim Executive Director, Community Action Works.

“These toxic chemicals don’t belong anywhere, let alone in food packaging,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts. “Kudos to Rhode Island for taking this important step to protect the public from PFAS. I hope Massachusetts will soon become the next state to act.”

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